Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Information of Interest

Have you heard of content marketing? It is a broad concept that focuses on maintaining existing customer relationships and attracting prospects by providing high quality information of interest. Content marketing recognizes the shift from business control to the customer controlling the marketing message.

This shift from businesses pushing information out is rapidly being replaced by consumers surfing the web in search of unbiased information about products and services they are interested in buying. The popularity of online review sites like Yelp as well as the extensive user-generated reviews available at Amazon attest to the magnitude of the change.

In this blog, we’ll give you some tips for generating the kind of quality writing that is the foundation of content marketing. And remember – we are always ready to assist if you feel overwhelmed by the task.

Creative Characters Receives Women’s Business Enterprise National Certification

Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions, a business specializing in marketing solutions for small to medium size businesses, received national re-certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Development Center of Philadelphia, a regional certifying partner of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC).

WBENC’s national standard of certification implemented by the Women’s Business Development Center of Philadelphia is a meticulous process including an in-depth review of the business and site inspection. The certification process is designed to confirm the business is at least 51% owned, operated and controlled by a woman or women. In this case, Creative Characters is 100% women owned, operated and controlled.

By including women-owned businesses among their vendors, corporations and government agencies demonstrate their commitment to fostering diversity and the continued development of their supplier/vendor diversity programs.

To learn more about Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions, please visit www.creativecharacters.com.

About Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions

Creative Characters Print & Web Solutions primary purpose is to create success for our clients. We develop creative, innovative, results-based marketing solutions for business challenges. We help communicate our clients’ message through websites, social media, landing pages, print, email marketing, direct mail, and more. Call (215) 923-2679 to put our strategic marketing expertise, award-winning graphic design and copywriting, and flawless execution to work for your company.

About WBENC

The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council is the nation’s largest third party certifier of businesses owned and operated by women in the United States. WBENC is a resource for the more than 700 US companies and government agencies that rely on WBENC’s certification as an integral part of their supplier diversity programs.

I have always been bad at grammar. How can I improve?

You are wise to recognize that bad grammar can distract the reader from the information you are providing. Here are some homonyms – pairs of words with the same pronunciation but different meanings – that will help you avoid some common grammatical errors.
  • who’s (a contraction of who is), whose (the possessive form of who and which)
  • you’re (a contraction of you are), your (the possessive form of you)
  • there (in that place), their (the possessive form of they), they’re (a contraction of they are)
  • it’s (a contraction of it is), its (the possessive form of it is or it has)
  • affect (to have an influence on), effect (a result). Affect is generally used as a verb (to affect) while effect is generally used as a noun (the effect).

For more help with spelling, grammar and punctuation, consult these online sources:
http://www.m-w.com (Merriam-Webster dictionary)
http://thesaurus.reference.com (Roget’s Thesaurus)
http://onelook.com (dictionary service)
http://www.grammarly.com (grammar checker)

Finding Your Voice


Most writing, and especially informal writing such as blogging, benefits from the use of active voice. Voice is the grammatical term for describing whether the action of a sentence is performed by the subject (active voice) or the object of the sentence (passive voice). For example:

  • Active voice: Sally used a credit card to pay for her purchases.
  • Passive voice: A credit card was used by Sally for her purchases.

It is easy to recognize passive voice because the verb phrase will always include a form of to be (such as am, is, was, were, are, or been) or the prepositional phase by the following the verb. In contrast, active voice allows for simpler sentence construction and therefore better reader comprehension.

To change from passive to active voice, locate who or what is performing the action expressed by the verb. Make that the subject of the sentence, and change the verb accordingly.

  • Passive voice: The information presented was commented on by six people.
  • Change to active voice: Six people commented on the information presented.

Engage Your Clients with Content Marketing

Today’s customers are rapidly developing a new set of habits that govern their interaction with businesses. In the past, the interaction was described by the push system – the business pushed its products and services at customers and prospects while using focus groups, trend analysis and other techniques to forecast demand. In a push system, the business is largely in control of the customer interaction.

With the rise of e-commerce, a shift is occurring to a pull system: customers and prospects pull the products and services they want from businesses. By changing who controls the interaction (the customer instead of the business), customers are becoming increasingly resistant to interruption marketing (such as television ads, telemarketing, spam, and web pop-up and banner ads) and are seeking useful, relevant information to help them make buying decisions. Social networking sites as well as “comment” and “review” features of e-commerce sites are new ways for customers to seek and receive information.

The emphasis on useful and relevant information also means that customers and prospects are becoming increasingly sensitive to bias and deceit, demanding transparency from businesses. Rather than relying on advertising alone, customers are reading reviews and comments of those who have a personal experience with the product, service or the business itself – often without knowing much about the reviewer. (This is called the social proof method – determining what is correct by finding out what others think is correct.)

All this leads to the need for today’s businesses to adopt a new marketing technique called content marketing. Content marketing consists of focusing on creating and distributing information that a specific target audience will find relevant and engaging. Rather than emphasizing the features and benefits of a product or service, content marketing is communicating without direct selling. It is providing information that educates your customers and prospects so they can make better buying decisions. It is giving control to customers rather than businesses.

Best practices of content marketing

Successful content marketing is built on a foundation of well-written copy that covers topics of interest to the target audience and follows the rules of grammar and copyright law. The best content will be useful to the target audience, unique in some way from what others are writing on the topic, use a writing style that the target audience is comfortable with, is fresh and appealing, and advances a conversation.

  • Useful content. Remember that the goal of content marketing is to build trust and confidence among a target audience by attracting and keeping their interest. Do you know what those interests are? Can you define them in the context of the products and services your business or organization provides? If not, then the first task is to study the individuals you are trying to reach. Conduct surveys, ask for feedback, and try sample topics until you can define their needs and desires.
  • Unique content. To ensure that readers continue their interest, a successful content marketer must do more than compile relevant information from other sources. You will need to add something – facts and figures, personal anecdotes, a new perspective – that will intrigue your readers.

  • Writing style. Your writing style is how you write rather than what you write. Depending on your topics and audience, you may use any of these styles: narrative (describes a personal experience based on a real event), expository (conveys information or explains something difficult to understand), or persuasive (tries to convince the reader to accept a point of view or take an action). Within each of these styles, you can use grammar and sentence structure to strike a conversational (written like you talk), formal (follows all the rules of grammar and syntax) or entertaining (humorous or fun) tone.
  • Fresh and appealing content. The best way to keep content fresh and appealing is to write what you know. Find topics in areas where you have some expertise. Not only will it be easier to write, but you will find it easier to offer unique insights or perspectives.
  • Advance a conversation. Good content advances the reader’s knowledge of a topic. Avoid rambling, repeating yourself, and adding words, phrases or sentences that add nothing to the content.
  • Use good grammar. Misspellings, run-on or incomplete sentences, misuse of words and other grammar violations will cause your audience to pay more attention to the mistakes than to the content. Proofread vigorously and edit ruthlessly.
  • Honor copyright law. If you are using information from other sources, give appropriate credit and use quotation marks to indicate when you are using another writer’s words.

Deliver content the way your audience wants to receive it

Content marketing is often associated with web-based communication – blogging, e-letters, or posting on Facebook, for example. But remember that content marketing is based on the preferences of the target audience, so it may be that a traditional printed newsletter is the best way to create a following for your content. And even if you decide to deliver content exclusively via the web, you can use a printed post card to invite members of the target audience to subscribe or join your online community.

Let us help you perfect your content

If you are having trouble finding a writing style or the time to create content, let us help. We may have someone on our staff who can assist, or we can provide a recommendation for a copywriter, editor, photographer or other professional to augment your efforts. One of our services is to help our customers develop and execute an effective marketing plan, so let us go to work for you. Call Brigid at (215)923-2679 or email brigid@creativecharacters.com if you have questions or would like to arrange a convenient time to talk.